Nineteen-year old Suraj Sharma gives an astonishing performance as Pi Patel in Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” (November 21). And it will likely be his last. He has no intention of acting again. (See video below.)
In another year Sharma would be a shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination. He faces tough competition, from the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, John Hawkes, Bradley Cooper and Denzel Washington. But it’s just possible that he could steal a slot away from Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”). That’s because, under extraordinary duress, as shipwreck survivor Patel, alone on the ocean, Sharma delivers what would have been daunting for any professional actor. He expresses grief, fear, anger and depression, mostly acting in a giant tank buffeted by wind and water and pretending to be fighting off a Bengal tiger –who wasn’t there. He had to buff up from 150 pounds to 167, then drop down to 130 pounds, learn how to swim and to hold his breath under water.
And he didn’t even intend to audition. He was hanging out with his younger brother, who wanted the role, one of 3000 who auditioned for it. What did Sharma get out of it? A life-changing experience in which he gained knowledge of how to swim, act, and speak Mandarin, a devotion to Master Director Lee, and a new goal in life: to be a film director. (More details in the LAT.)